Chan Cheng, the opposition lawmaker who had his immunity revoked by the National Assembly last week, has gone into hiding, following accusations he used his parliamentary privileges to help a party supporter escape police custody.
However, in an interview with VOA Khmer, he said he had not made a mistake an that he could now not do his job as a parliamentarian.
“It’s a distraction,” he said from an undisclosed location outside the country. With his immunity suspended, he will lose the trust of the people he represents, he said, and he won’t be able to argue points in the National Assembly.
The National Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, voted to suspend Chan Cheng’s immunity last week, accusing him of using his parliamentary protection to drive a man away from Kandal provincial detention who was accused of incitement in a land dispute.
Chan Cheng, who represents Kandal province for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said he drove away with the suspect at the request of his lawyer and that there were no official charges against the man.
“I don’t agree with the lifting of my immunity,” he said. “I don’t agree, because I did not commit any wrongdoing.”
He was not called to testify before the National Assembly before they voted to suspend his protections, and he will now be unable to investigate other land-grabbing cases for fear of arrest, he said.
Cheam Yiep, a CPP lawmaker, said the National Assembly had followed due process of law and had adequately “scrutinized” the accusations against Chan Cheng before voting on his immunity. Chan Cheng must be questioned by the court in relation to the case, Cheam Yiep said.
However, Chan Cheng said the lifting of his immunity constituted another political attack on the opposition party, and he urged members of the international community to more closely monitor suspensions made by the National Assembly.
“Members of parliament cannot be so easily stripped of this,” he said. “It means not being able to work for the people anymore…so democracy will not move forward.”